Bicycle panniers

The panniers that I've been using for touring and daily use since mid 2013 are the 'mainstream MSX' panniers, ca. 26 l each, and smaller bags for the front of ca. 15 l each. I needed to replace the rear bags in 2021 as they were worn, the bottoms have holes, the material was cracked and some of the buckles were broken. After 5 years these issues started to appear but I continued to use them another 2 years. I describe my experiences with the MSX bags in detail and then describe what I was searching for in new panniers. After that I will review the new ones and the reasons for selecting the new ones that I bought.


Review of the Mainstream MSX panniers (big: 26l for the rear, small: 15l for the front)

See the page about a tour in 2013 on which I tested various equipment where describe the MSX panniers. I bought them mid 2013, used the rear panniers for more than 7 years, almost daily, for groceries, travelling, and hauling heavy stuff such as stones/concrete pieces to recycling. I only used the front panniers for touring. In the end one of the plastic clips holding one of the rear panniers on the rack snapped off, though that was not the first problem, there had been other issues going on for a while:
- The bottom of the bags had became partially see-through, layers of the fabric and outer smooth layer were separating, during the last 2 years or so.
- One of the rivets came loose, I replaced it with a bolt/nut.
- 2 of the clasps lost some pieces, the plastic became brittle and pieces snapped off.

These bags are ca. 26 litres each (size: width at the top 37.0 cm, depth 13.0 cm, height when open is ca. 52 cm), with a flap on top. The clasps on top can be attached to each other which means with the lid there are several ways to close it:
- Rolling the top then closing the lid over it, or letting the top stay loose above/beside the bag if packing a bit more that wouldn't fit with the top rolled several times.
- Just connecting the top clasps and letting the lid loose, and not rolling the lid. This way I can put my Scrambler 30 (30 litres) backpack into the pannier even if the backpack is completely full.

Some thoughts about ways to stow stuff and how to close the panniers

The way I use the MSX panniers is to put stuff such as groceries in them and then depending on how much is in there:

So I never really use the roll top method in daily use as for my purposes it's not needed. Option 1 is good enough, option 2 is fairly open but with lots more space. I only used rolling to close the bags for touring trips.

An alternative to the flap is a strap across the bag such as the Buechel and Vaude bags have, but with quite a few of the bags listed above you cannot do that: Thule, Ortlieb, Arkel, and most of the Crosso bag types.

What next? (Choice to be made possibly in Feb. 2021)

I really like the MSX bags, but as the SL 55 CX red/black that I would want are not in stock at the manufacturer/seller ( I went looking for other options to replace them. Btw, they are since end of Feb. 2021 available single rather than only as a pair (with accompanying price increase).

I contacted Atran Velo about their panniers for the AVS system. It wasn't clear whether that system is a mount system that is attached to any pannier for on any rack system (with an adapter if needed for this purpose), or only to Atran velo's own AVS racks. I haven't had a reply yet (still as of 2021-3-21, email was sent 2021-2-12 so now more than a month ago. I may make a video on this topic of companies not replying, but in the mean time:

2021-3-31: I made a list that you may find interesting, with replies (or non-replies) by companies to my emails. Update 2023-3-12: I never received a reply from Atran Velo...).

I had already looked around a few years ago and considered buying Crosso bags from Poland because I was looking for bags bigger than the MSX bigs, so which hold more than 26 litres per bag. A friend dissuaded me from buying them as "the hooks damage your rack". Well, plastic hooks of the MSX bags also damage my Tubus rear rack that I treated recently with rust converter on the afflicted places. Long ago I used a small single sided bag with hooks, and I used fabric (cotton?) adhesive tape by Tesa on the rack to protect it. Where can you get such tape these days? (so fabric is felt on the outside) I have some fabric handlerbar tape from Velox but that doesn't stick very well at all, nowhere near as well as that Tesa tape did... But I will use that when needed.

I have been considering the following, which are listed somewhat in decreasing order of how well I think they would work for my purposes:

Important good and bad points:

So, what to choose?

2021-3-4: I ordered new bags and I will tell you soon which type on the list above I chose...

Reviews of the new bicycle bags that I bought in 2021, 2022

These will of course not be long term durability reviews, but they will be about a comparison with other bicycle panniers that I used, especially the MSX panniers, in use in ease of use, mounting, size, how to close them, how stiff or supple the material is, etc..

Review of the Crosso Expert 66

Manufacturer images:
crosso expert 66 crosso expert 66 crosso expert 66

Review finally 2023-3-2: I bought these panniers in March 2021, the version in black with hooks. I should have bought them in red! This also makes your bike stand out and thus easier to find again after leaving a shop, which was an advantage of using the Orca panniers in red, as I found out :)

Size: Very good, they are 30 liters for the main bag when rolled up, and when not rolled up I can easily put in my 35 litre back pack or a lot of groceries.

Clips/buckles: ways to close them: You roll up the top and close the buckles on the top to each other. You can also install the lid then close that on the bottom over the bag. This gives options similar to the MSX bags of closing the bag for rain while not bothering to roll them up.

These bags remain supply even in cold temperatures, in stark contrast to the MSX bags which are far stiffer and the colder it gets the more stiff they are.

I read some reports of the bags coming loose from the rack and that is a possibility with these hooks as the 3rd point which hooks to the rack at the bottom can become a bit loose. They are adjustable straps similar to what you have on say back packs for the straps so you can adjust the length so the should straps (and chest straps) fit you. I had one ride (with empty bags, but it can happen with full ones in the same way) where the straps had worked themselves loose a bit and a bag flew off on a bumpy road. So this is an issue, you need to check that the bottom strap is tight.

When riding in the city I usually don't roll them up but clip the top clips together so that my foot doesn't hit a bag as the top flares out when it is flat.

More to be added...

Likes: Supple even in winter. Very big, one of the cheapest.

Conclusion so far (2023-3-12): I like them. The size is excellent for me. If I buy another pair then I will buy them in red and probably with the clamp system. I can't say anything yet about longevity.

Review of the Arkel Orca 45

Review 2023-3-2: I bought a pair in summer 2022, in red. I first wanted to buy them in gray, then thought, as with the red PD-EF205 pedals, that red would stand out nicely. I like the bags in red, which has an advantage: it is very easy to find your bicycle again after leaving a shop! (in NL there are lots of bicycles near just about any shop) So I advise everyone in the area that I live to NOT buy any panniers in red, otherwise it will take me more time to find my bike! :)

The mounting system is the best of all that I tried but they don't have a lock which would be better. This is something I was thinking about since about 2 years ago when a relative first had 1 MSX bag stolen, then a year or so later it happened again...

Although advertised as being made in Canada the bags have a 'made in China' label inside, so possibly only the mounting system is made in Canada? [ The section on their site about which products are made in Canada vs. 'overseas' pointed to the same 34 products when I previously checked, but on 2023-3-12 I checked again and the overseas product listing now is 4 products among which are these Orca panniers. ]

The bags are more stiff than the Crosso bags, and a bit smaller, so putting in my 35 litre back pack is less easy but still possible. They are less stiff than the MSX bags which are hard to get into a shape that is useful to put in something big, when it's freezing. I didn't have that issue with these bags, nor with the Crosso bags.

The hook at the bottom is attached via a sort of thick rubber band but it doesn't work with a Tubus Logo evo rack that I had on my touring bike, as it doesn't get tight to the place where I can hook it in when hanging the pannier on the rack's 2nd rail, beneath the top. As I didn't like this way of hanging anyway, as it meant the bag was too low, which interfered with being able to kick in the rear kickstand from the front while riding (I could only get my foot far enough to the rear underneath the bag with difficulty), I replaced the Tubus Logo rack with an Atranvelo Tour AVS, which has some advantages such as a wider upper area to put things on with straps, and a spring underneath which you can clamp say a coat or a sweater if you get too hot while riding.

Clips/buckles: You roll up the top then clip them to the buckles on the bottom. This means there is no intermediate option of leaving the bag open at the top but still somewhat safer against anything falling out by having the clip/buckles connect on top which act as a hindrance for anything coming out.

Size: I can put in my 35 litre backpack (leaving the top open) but it's less easy than with the Crosso 30 litre bags. It's good enough for most cases though, similar to the MSX bags.

Riding around in the city I often leave the bags half open, i.e. I clip the top clips to the bottom clips but don't roll up the bag.

More to be added...

Likes: Not too stiff in winter. Best mounting system I've seen so far.

Dislikes: No ability to semi-close with the clasps on top.

Conclusion so far (2023-3-12): I've used them enough to see no issues with the mounting system, it is the best system so far simply because of sturdiness. The bags are big enough for most purposes, the clasps could be better organised. The bags don't get stiff in winter, at least not as stiff as with the MSX bags where you need to do effort to open them up to put something in them. I can't say anything yet about longevity.

Comments about manufacturer's advertising videos

I was looking at the Vaude bags and a manufacturer video as I wanted to see if there is a clip on top or loop for a strap and it looks like there might be a loop for a strap but Jesus, F. Christ, that video by Vaude on their website is a piece of marketing trash! In it they showed several stowing options in a few seconds. Why not show properly how to use these bags! Why the need for annoying retardo background music? This is all fairly common though, not specific to Vaude. In just about all manufacturer's videos they don't show what you want to see! I made a comment about this quite a while ago in the bicycle bell section after seeing a video by Lezyne of their then new bicycle bells, which has music so you can't actually hear the bells! WTF??!!

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